Welcome to the Salem Tunnel Report. Every Monday we will post new and old tunnel finds along with those who built them. In our posts you will learn how Salem has shaped American history from the profits of the smuggling that happened in these tunnels; sometimes for the good, but more often not.
William B. Parker House
33 Pleasant Street
William B. Parker built his home kitty corner of Parker Court in 1851. Parker Court has a tunnel running from Winter street to the Isaac Smith House on the corner of Pleasant and Bridge Streets. William Parker also owned large tracts of land on March Street and lots composing of Beacon (East Watson Street then) and Barton Streets. He will own the Hawkes House for a short period too. The E.W. Abbot House which will be described next was once his property as well which is connected to the tunnels.
William B. Parker was the grandfather of the Parker Brothers, George and Charles, who started the toy company in the Franklin Building. It was tales of his cousin mysteriously dying the night before the trial of the Knapp brothers and his belief in the first blackmail letter that spurred his grandson to purchase Cluedo and rename it Clue with the truth buried in the game.
William had owned ships with Joseph “Jr.” White, John Andrews, and Benjamin Felt. He also was brought into a libel case in 1830 accusing Col. Upham as a Federalist smuggler during the Embargo Act (Report of Timothy Upham vs. Hill and Barton of New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette). Hill and Barton also accused Upham of being a corrupt Collector of Customs in Portsmouth. The whole time Upham declared himself as much a Democratic-Republican as Crowninshield was. Remember the tunnels under George Crowninshield Sr. house which became the Customs House in Salem…Benjamin W. Crowninshield when he was Collector of Marblehead had a cavern under his property used to smuggle into on Peach’s Point in Marblehead from the sea. He was also called to testify in the case.
When I first searched this basement in the first version of this book the deceased owner’s son had the basement filled with large furniture after his mother’s death. Then I returned during his estate sale and the basement was cleared out. Then I found the tunnel entrance that had led under the granite stairs in the front of the house. Similar to the Dr. Peabody’s House next to the Old Burying Point. This sealed entrance also had the usual raised cold sill. Not too long before I found the entrance it had a iron door still on it. So it makes you wonder where the fortune started from that set up the Parker Brothers toy company?
For more read info Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and its sequel Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin published by Salem House Press. Available at Barnes & Noble, Remember Salem, The Witch House, Jolie Tea, and Amazon.com.